If you roam the aisle of any grocery store, you’ll likely come across many products—even an entire section!—devoted to gluten-free foods. For years, we’ve been hearing about the benefits of ditching gluten to lose weight or improve digestion. But if you don’t have a medical reason to give it up, is ditching gluten actually a good idea?
Here are five things to consider before you start loading your grocery cart with gluten-free products.
Most people aren’t gluten-intolerant
Celiac disease, a genetic disorder and serious gluten intolerance, affects only 1 percent of people worldwide. While many people who don’t suffer from celiac disease may think they are sensitive to gluten, recent studies suggest those sensitivities may be more psychological than physical.
Gluten-free foods aren’t always healthier
While plenty of people have successfully lost weight by eliminating gluten, gluten-free foods aren’t automatically healthier. Consider this: While quinoa is gluten-free, so are french fries. In fact, gluten-free foods often contain excess sugar and fat to improve taste—without any of the nutritional benefits of whole grains.
Gluten-free substitutes are expensive
Foods that are designed to be gluten-free substitutes of popular gluten-full favorites often come with a steep price tag. For instance, a loaf of gluten-free bread can cost as much as two to three times the price of a normal loaf of bread. If you’re simply trying to eat healthier, you’d be better off spending your money on produce and lean meats.
Going gluten-free might not be what’s making you feel better
Many people report improved digestion and overall “feeling better” once they go gluten-free. While only you can determine how your body feels, it’s important to consider what actually might be making you feel better. For instance, if going gluten-free is simply causing you to stop and eat intentionally—rather than grabbing processed snacks or fast food on-the-go—it may not be the lack of gluten that has your digestive system back on track.
What’s right for someone else might not be right for you
Keep in mind that a health trend is typically just that: a trend. Just because it seems trendy doesn’t mean it’s the right thing for you. Regardless of what’s currently in style, it’s important to eat in a way that nourishes you, gives you energy and makes you feel your best.
When to Visit a Doctor About a Potential Gluten Digestive Problem
If you are concerned you may have a gluten sensitivity or think there’s a chance you are suffering from celiac disease, it might be time to seek the opinion of your doctor. Before you make dramatic changes to your diet, make an appointment with your doctor if you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- Frequent diarrhea or GI discomfort
- Weight loss
- Vitamin deficiencies, such as iron, folate or vitamin B12
Talking to your doctor is especially important if any of the above symptoms are coupled with a family history.